I write software for a living. This is a profession that uses a lot of brainpower. If you're good at it and you think about it, that is. Programming is arbitrarily hard: pick your problem and you can make its solution as difficult to write as you want. (Like, count the bugs in the random prompt word chooser in the earlier entry. I see several. You can make solving that very simple problem as interesting as you feel like. Suppose you had to choose a random set of words from a list of unknown length, and you wanted each word to have the same probability of appearing in the list. You're reading the words from a stream and cannot know in advance how many there are. See what I mean? Gets interesting.) The percentage of the population that can write software well is small. (The percentage of programmers who can write software well is similarly small, as I know from interviewing them. People with masters degrees who can't solve simple programming problems. But I digress. Grumpily.)
I think writing fiction is harder than writing software.
It's a whole-brain exercise. Structure. Managing long cycles of tension and release. Setups and payoffs. Keeping your theme present without whanging anybody over the head with it. And then you have to manage your sentences: sound and cadence and connotation and allusion. Engage all the senses. Draw your reader into the fictional dream and keep him there.
Research. Get the details right. I was realizing that I had to describe an Anglican church service, but I've never been to one. Guess what? I'm going to have to go to one. I need to research swordfighting. Okay, the SF&F writer in me is happy that at least I'll get to make up my own damn magic system. (The Buffy canonical one seems like half-imagined plot devicium to me.)
Every time I just start writing, hoping that I'll figure things out as I go, I find I can't. I have to pull back and figure out what my structure is. What the arc of this little section is. Scene, sequel, scene, sequel, crisis point, relax. But I can't really get anywhere by starting with the overview. Can't just write outlines. I have to start somewhere on the inside, maybe with a conversation or a single image. I follow that somewhere, then realize that I need to know more about what I'm trying to do overall. So I pull back, work on the outline, and then get drawn back down into specifics.
I just plunged into writing a section of my longer story without knowing what the heck the section was supposed to accomplish. Now I have something that is refusing to end neatly. Must now pull back and think. Do the work.
Note that writing this entry is shirking. Procrastinating. Dammit.